SEND reforms - Aspiration vs reality

The Children and Families Act 2014 came into force in September 2014. That law introduced a new system for supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). It was also intended to introduce a more collaborative system of support. It followed the Lamb Inquiry which found that too many families felt that securing support for young people with SEND was a battle.

Since the introduction of the law, we have focused on arising issues and difficulties. The following is a comparison between what the law requires and what is happening in practice.

Children and Families Act fact/aspiration





An EHC needs assessment must be
completed to transition from a Statement of SEN to an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) unless parents, the expert and the local authority all agree that it is not necessary 
Some Local Authorities (LAs) are refusing to gather any new information or are unaware that they have an obligation to complete an EHC needs assessment
The transition from Statement to EHCP should take no more than 14 weeksTransition routinely taking more than 14 weeks once LAs are made aware of their obligation to complete an EHC needs assessment
An EHCP is not a ‘rebrand’ of the Statement of SENAn EHCP is a ‘rebrand’ of the Statement of SEN with little new information contained, aside from parents’ updated views and wishes which are taken verbatim from the parental contribution form.
Children should not lose SEN provision as a
result of moving from a Statement to an EHCP
The process of moving from a Statement to an EHCP is being used by some LAs to either remove SEN provision entirely, or to make it so vague that it is almost unenforceable
Child, parents and young people are to be at the centre of decision-makingSome LAs continue to make decisions and then ask parents, children and young people to agree with those decisions
LAs are to work with families to reduce the perceived ‘battle’ to secure adequate SEN support for childrenParents continue to be provided with inaccurate, or entirely wrong, information about the law and barriers to support continue to be implemented by LA policies
SEN provision is to be given on the basis of what a
child’s special educational needs are and
the support they need in school to make progress towards the best possible outcomes
SEN provision is formulated by first establishing what level of funding will be secured and then considering what can be secured with that level of funding
Health, social care and education will
collaborate and work together
Health and social care rarely have any involvement with each other or refuse to have any involvement
Best possible educational outcomes for the child or young personOutcomes are prepared on a short-term basis and are conjured up during short ‘Outcome-setting Meetings’
An EHCP must contain detailed, quantified and specified supportEHCP provision is as vague as it always was within the Statement of SEN framework
Parents and/or young people will be given access to independent supporters who will advise and support themSome independent supporters are expressly told not to assist parents in challenging LA decisions
The Children & Families Act will result in a
decline in appeals
Appeals are at the same level, if not higher, because of a misapplication, misunderstanding or non-compliance with the law
The definition of ‘Special Educational Needs’ will remain the sameLAs are imposing higher definition thresholds for ‘Special Educational Needs’
Children who received SEN support under
the Education Act 1996 regime will continue to receive support under the Children and Families Act 2014
LAs are advising schools that funding is reduced and that the threshold for SEN support has increased
The test for an EHCP will be the same as
that for obtaining a Statement of SEN
Some LAs have increased the threshold to qualify for an EHCP and are advising parents that whilst their child may have qualified for a Statement, they don’t now qualify for an EHCP
LAs should publish a Local Offer which
gives a comprehensive and detailed explanation of all support and services available for people with SEN and disabilities and the qualifying criteria for those services
LAs are publishing brief and sometimes cumbersome lists of organisations in their local area without any real detailed information
Therapies that act as training are an education provision and should be placed within the education section of an EHCPMany LAs are still treating physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy as medical provision and placing them within the medical sections of an EHCP, if they are including them at all
LAs are to make use of available time and resources in order to make sure that transition to the new system of SEN
support ensures recognition of needs and
full delivery of support
Transition into the new system is being rushed. SEN are not being identified and provision is not collaborative, comprehensive or concise.
Children in mainstream schools can access an EHCPSome local authorities are operating policies that an EHCP is not available for children in mainstream school
Local Offer should provide a concise, informative and user friendly guide to SEN and disabilities support and services in your area, along with qualifying criteria for
access to those services
Local Offer is a list of organisations in the area that have a connection with SEN and disabilities with little or no information about how to qualify for their services. Some local authorities are refusing to include independent schools on the Local Offer.
Blanket policies regarding SEN provision should not be operatedEducation and Health teams are requiring their experts to recommend ‘advice’ rather than ‘direct services’ involvement with children


I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

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